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International Quality Review for ACE Impact (IQR for ACE Impact) has been specially developed by the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) to provide institutions taking part in ACE Impact with an independent peer review leading to accreditation by QAA.


Below are answers to a number of frequently asked questions about the project. You can also contact us for more information.


What is IQR for ACE Impact?

International Quality Review (IQR) for ACE Impact is a gap analysis/self-evaluation, review and institutional accreditation process for universities and other institutions of higher education. It has been specially developed by the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) to provide institutions taking part in ACE Impact with an independent peer review leading to international institutional accreditation by the QAA.

What is ACE Impact?

The Africa Higher Education Centers of Excellence (ACE) Project is a World Bank initiative in collaboration with governments of participating countries to support higher education institutions in specialising in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Environment, Agriculture, Applied Social Science/Education and Health. It is the first World Bank project aimed at the capacity building of higher education institutions in Africa. The first phase (ACE I) was launched in 2014 with 22 Centers of Excellence in 9 West and Central African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.

The Project aims to promote regional specialisation among participating universities in areas that address specific common regional development challenges. It also aims to strengthen the capacities of these universities to deliver high quality training and applied research as well as meet the demand for skills required for Africa's development./p>

Visit the ACE website for more information.

How does it work?

IQR for ACE Impact assesses institutions against internationally recognised standards for quality assurance. The core standards used in IQR for ACE Impact are the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG), which have been developed for internal and external quality assurance in higher education. In assessing an institution, QAA takes into account the local contexts and local, national and regional regulatory requirements and standards.

The IQR for ACE Impact process has five stages: application, gap analysis, review, accreditation, and mid-cycle review. Institutions must complete all five stages in order to achieve and retain accreditation by QAA.

There are two financial disbursements linked to IQR for ACE Impact. The first is after the gap analysis has been completed and the second once the institution has achieved accreditation.

More detailed information is provided in the International Institutional Quality Review for ACE Impact Guidance Document. Please contact us to request a copy. 

Do I need to have a gap analysis and a self-evaluation to access funding?

The gap analysis in IQR for ACE Impact involves your institution undertaking a self-evaluation of your approach to internal quality assurance against the international quality assurance standards. This self-evaluation will establish if there are any ‘gaps’ between what you do now and what you need to do to meet the international standards. The report QAA writes will identify where there are gaps that you will need to address before you progress to Stage 3. Your institution should be eligible for financial disbursement under DLR 7.3 at the completion of this gap analysis stage.

What is the difference between institutional accreditation and programme accreditation?

Institutional accreditation considers the whole institution and what the institution does to make sure all of its higher education provision is fit for purpose, whereas programme accreditation focuses on the academic standards and quality of a particular programme or subject area.

Within ACE Impact, host institutions are expected to pursue both institutional accreditation (for the whole institution) and programme accreditation (for the programmes or specialisms being funded in the ACE Centers).

IQR for ACE Impact is an institutional accreditation process, not a programme accreditation process. Host institutions should pursue programme accreditation or assessment separately. 

Why should I go for institutional accreditation?

Institutional accreditation offers a number of benefits to your institution. The process of applying and preparing for accreditation will help you recognise your strengths as an institution, along with any areas where you need to improve. 

If you are successful in achieving international institutional accreditation, you will demonstrate effective quality assurance comparable to international best practice, strengthen your global positioning and drive improvements. Institutional accreditation may also help you to develop partnerships with other institutions internationally.

Why should I choose IQR for ACE Impact?

IQR for ACE Impact has been specially developed by QAA for institutions taking part in ACE Impact. It shares the same high standards as QAA’s original International Quality Review, which a number of institutions in the Middle East and Asia have used to achieve institutional accreditation and the recognition that goes with it.

QAA is the independent expert body entrusted with monitoring and advising on the standards of student achievement and the quality of the student learning experience in UK higher education. QAA is a full member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and listed on the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR) in recognition of its own compliance with the ESG. QAA is also a full and active member of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE).

A successful IQR for ACE Impact means that you are officially accredited by QAA. You will be able to use the Accreditation Badge on your website and marketing materials, which shows that your institution is accredited by QAA against internationally recognised standards.

Who will be on the review team?

The team for the gap analysis visit will comprise two QAA officers, who are experts in quality assurance.

The team for the review will consist of a minimum of three reviewers:

  • one peer reviewer with experience and/or expertise in higher education in Africa
  • one UK peer reviewer
  • one student reviewer (this will be a current student, or one who has graduated within the last two years).

All reviewers are fully trained by QAA and attend a preparation session to ensure that they have a comprehensive understanding of the context of your review.

The review process will be coordinated by a QAA Review Manager who will also support the review team. This officer is independent of the review team and is not involved in the judgement.

Can IQR for ACE Impact focus on the ACE only, rather than the whole institution?

No, IQR for ACE Impact is an institutional accreditation process that looks at the whole institution, not just the ACE.

Is IQR for ACE Impact endorsed by the ACE project funders?

Yes, IQR for ACE Impact is recognised by the World Bank and the Association of African Universities as an acceptable international institutional accreditation method for the purpose of the ACE Impact programme.

What happens if you can’t visit my institution?

In some circumstances, QAA may not be able to visit your institution. Where this is the case, QAA may be able to carry out the gap analysis visit and review visit in a different way, for example, by using video conferencing. QAA will discuss this with you at the application stage.

Where can I find out more information?

Please refer to the IQR for ACE Impact Guidance Document for further information about the review process. If you would like to receive a copy of the guidance, or speak to someone at QAA about it, please contact us.

When should I apply for IQR for ACE Impact?

In general, the earlier you apply for IQR for ACE Impact, the better. Early engagement will give you the time to prepare properly and to carry out the two main stages of the process - gap analysis and review - by the end of ACE Impact in 2024. Early engagement will also give you time to carry out any development and capacity building which may be needed between the gap analysis and review visit. Therefore, early engagement will maximise your chances of achieving accreditation and the relevant financial disbursements.

How long does IQR for ACE Impact take to complete?

The total amount of time it takes to complete IQR for ACE Impact depends on various factors, including the needs and requirements of the institution under review and whether any development or capacity building is needed between the gap analysis and review visit.  Appendix 10 of the IQR for ACE Impact Guidance Document gives an indicative timetable. For a copy of the guidance document, please contact us.

Who decides when the different stages happen?

The timing of the different stages will be discussed and agreed between QAA and your institution. IQR for ACE Impact is a flexible process, meaning that the timing of different stages can be adjusted and adapted to suit your institution’s progress through the different stages. To be eligible for all the funding from the ACE Impact project, your institution must complete both the gap analysis and achieve international accreditation within the project period.

What happens if my university decides not to proceed after Stage 2: Gap Analysis?

There is no requirement for your institution to proceed beyond Stage 2. Your institution should be eligible for financial disbursement at the completion of this stage. However, if you choose not to proceed, you will not be eligible for further disbursement linked funding for international institutional accreditation.

Can I work with other host institutions to prepare for IQR for ACE Impact?

Yes, collaboration with other institutions can be a very helpful and important source of ideas, advice and mutual support. QAA therefore encourages (and will help to facilitate) collaboration among applicant institutions.

How much does IQR for ACE Impact cost?

Please contact us at QAA to discuss the costs for IQR for ACE Impact to discuss the costs for IQR for ACE Impact.

How does the funding for institutional accreditation work?

In ACE Impact, each ACE’s funds are distributed according to a set of disbursement-linked indicators (DLIs) and disbursement-linked results (DLRs) - pre-defined indicators that once achieved by the ACE host institution, qualify for the disbursement of a pre-determined amount.

The DLIs and DLRs for ACE Impact are grouped into seven areas or themes, one of which is institutional impact. Within the institutional impact theme is an expectation that host institutions will undertake gap analyses or self-evaluations followed by international institutional accreditation by the end of the programme in 2024.


IQR for ACE Impact is specially designed to reflect these funding arrangements. Once the gap analysis stage is complete, the institution shall be eligible for a financial disbursement under DLR 7.3 of US$75,000. If the institution achieves institutional accreditation at the end of the review process, it shall be eligible for a disbursement under DLR 7.3 of US$200,000.

Is there an application fee?

There is no separate application fee. The host institution submits an application that provides the key institution details to confirm eligibility for the ACE Impact project funding. QAA confirms that the institution is eligible to apply for IQR for ACE Impact and invites the host institution to enter into a contract for Stage 2: Gap Analysis.

How does my institution apply for IQR for ACE Impact?

All enquiries should be emailed to us with IQR for ACE Impact as the subject of the email. QAA will confirm requirements for submission of the application, the form that needs to be completed and information about any documentation that is required.

Who pays the fees?

As with most other financial arrangements for ACE Impact, the host institution is responsible for paying the fees for the institutional accreditation at the relevant stages of the process. Should the institution achieve the relevant disbursement-linked result, it will qualify for the disbursement of a pre-determined amount from the project funders.

What happens if I fail to achieve institutional accreditation?

Should you fail to achieve institutional accreditation, you will not qualify for the relevant financial disbursement. This underlines the importance of early engagement in, and full institutional commitment to, the review process. Failure to achieve institutional accreditation will not impact on funding for gap analysis/self-evaluation, which is Stage 2 in IQR for ACE Impact (see also ‘Do I need to have a gap analysis and a self-evaluation to access funding?’).